Defense Lawyers Question Former Altar Boy's Allegations

By Ross Farrow
Lodi News-Sentinel
March 14, 2012

Defense attorneys claimed on Tuesday that the 37-year-old former altar boy suing popular Lockeford priest Michael Kelly may have been sexually assaulted by someone else.

During cross examination, clinical psychologist Amy Charney, a witness for the plaintiff, testified that the plaintiff was in fourth grade, not fifth, when he was sexually assaulted. Charney's statement contradicts the plaintiff's testimony on Friday that Kelly sexually assaulted him in the fifth grade. Defense attorney Tom Beatty, representing Kelly, noted that Kelly didn't begin his duties at Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton until June 1984, when the plaintiff was completing the fourth grade.

However, Charney said that people with repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse are often fuzzy on actual dates and times of traumatic events. She added that children sometimes shut off their memories of events like sexual assault for more than 20 years, as she said was the case with the plaintiff suing Kelly.

Beatty asked Charney if she was aware of the plaintiff's family having a nanny and a babysitter who could have sexual assaulted him. Charney replied that she had no knowledge of those individuals.

In daylong testimony, Charney also described repressed memory when people forget about a traumatic incident and it comes back to them after a period of time.

The plaintiff, whose name is being withheld by court order because he claims to be a sexual assault victim, is suing Kelly and the Stockton Diocese, saying that Kelly sexually assaulted him at least once in the 1980s when the plaintiff was a student at Annunciation School in Stockton.

Kelly, 62, has been pastor of St. Joachim's Catholic Church in Lockeford for the past eight years.

Charney, who practices in West Hartford, Conn., said she counseled the plaintiff from January through September 2008, when the plaintiff lived in that state. He told Charney during several appointments that his experience being sexually abused as a child was coming back to him.

People experiencing repressed memory, Charney said, recall details a little at a time as a defense mechanism, because recalling every detail can be overwhelming to them.

"I believe that memories evolve," Charney said.

Attorney Jim Goodman, representing the diocese, then asked, "You can't possibly tell what memories (the plaintiff) will have two or three years from now?"

Charney replied, "No, I can't."

Charney added that her role is not to piece events together for clients. Rather, it's to help clients piece things together for themselves.

The former altar boy told Charney about being fondled in Kelly's living quarters at the church rectory, she said, but it took three months before he remembered being sexually assaulted on a trail outside Stockton.

Charney testified that the plaintiff was disturbed by media reports of clergy sexual abuse in Boston. She said that the plaintiff saw a headline about it on the Internet, but he told her he didn't read the accompanying article. However, the headline may have triggered the plaintiff's memory of childhood sexual abuse, Charney said.

Charney wasn't expected to testify on Tuesday because the plaintiff hadn't completed his testimony on Friday, the last day court was held. However, attorneys allowed Charney to take the witness stand because she flew to California from Connecticut for the trial.

The plaintiff will continue to be questioned by his attorney, John Manly, and be cross-examined by Goodman and Beatty. Court will be in session beginning at 10 a.m. today at San Joaquin County Superior Court, 222 E. Weber Ave., Department 42, Stockton.

The trial will continue each day at 10 a.m. through Friday and then Tuesday through Friday each week until the trial goes to the jury for deliberation.



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